Art link: Art Masterlist
Prompt Number: 1021
Fic Title: In scales of grey
Fandom/Genre: SPN, casefic
Word Count: 4717
Warnings: none beyond those needed for an average ep
Notes: I want to give a great deal of thinks to my beta just_ruth for kicking this into shape, esp. in what little time I was able to give her. And to my artist for the awesome Victor centric art she made for the challenge
Summary: After surviving the demon attack in Colorado, Victor Henriksen has to learn to cope with the new realities of his life. When a case involving monsters ends up on his desk, he has to decide how to deal with it.
Victor stared at the folder. Dark and ominous, it was thinner than most; just a few papers from the morgue, some initial interviews with the one witness who found the body, and pictures, can’t forget those, three pictures of a woman who had her throat ripped out as if by a shark.
It had been almost seven months since Colorado. Even though he’d made sure to let the Winchesters know when the government was getting too close, he hadn’t ever been in a situation where he might actually need their help. Months of looking at every file, every hint of talk and trying to figure out if the perpetrator was human or something else.
Several of his colleagues were starting to call him Mulder under their breath. There were whispers that there was something wrong with him, that he’d been troubled since Reidy. They didn’t know how right they were.
He’d been doing his job. He hadn’t gone out on half-baked quests against the supernatural, hadn’t dropped his entire life, bought a car, filled it with guns and gone out to hunt the dark. He figured he hadn’t gone entirely insane, in their eyes or his own.
He never went anywhere with his shirt off, so they didn’t see the new tattoo on his chest; when he started wearing a silver ring, it was just seen as a new piece of jewelry.
When he did surveillance now, he couldn’t help but look at the eyes of the people on tape, always waiting for that ‘camera flare’ that the Winchesters had warned him about. But so far, nothing out of the ordinary had jumped out at him.
And then today happened. He stared at the pictures in front of him and nearly threw them away in disgust. Throat ripped out, blood spattered across the body, but not enough to explain away the blood loss. Yet no matter how much he tried to imagine that animals had killed the victim, he couldn’t think of any that could have done the damage done in this case.
He held his phone in his hand for an hour before he tried to make a call. It instantly went to the voice mail. When he tried the second Winchester, he had no luck there either.
Starting to get desperate he finally tried the third number that the Winchesters had given him. A man called Bobby Singer. Victor had looked him up once while he was hunting the Winchesters, both Singer and Harvelle’s Roadhouse. He still remembered the cold glares thrown at him, treating him with utter disdain.
The men at the Roadhouse avoided his eyes, left when they saw him coming, or glared at him. They all looked rough, harsh; even the women had that look in their eyes as if they’d seen more in life than he could ever imagine. He’d gone into an Arian Nation bar once, when he’d been a rookie and his superior had wanted to provoke the bastards. They had been pussycats compared to these.
He remembered wondering how many bodies a place like Singer’s Salvage yard could hold, wanting to see how many of the people at the Roadhouse were on the most wanted list. He hadn’t had enough proof to do either back then. The Roadhouse had been destroyed, along with everyone in it. He’d never done enough to check up on why, too busy hunting the Winchesters. Maybe he should check, or maybe, he should just ask Dean someday. He wasn’t sure if it would help or make things worse if he did know the answer.
Finally he called Singer’s number. He was almost pleasantly surprised when instead of telling him to get lost, Singer gave him another number. Some hunter he knew called Owens who’d been in the area he was looking at. Singer warned him to be careful, to stay the hell away from the actual hunt and just let the Hunter deal with it. Victor wished he could do what the man told him to. Just stand back, focus on the human scumbags, the ones he could actually take into custody and throw in jail. It was just...
This was his case and he hated handing it over. He knew it was pride. Hell, he knew he should be better than that, but he hadn’t given up on a case in all the years he’d worked for the Bureau and to do so now, it felt wrong. Even more so than pretending that the Winchesters were dead.
He hadn’t lied when he told Winchester how little good he’d been able to do in the Bureau. Oh, he had a good track record; his superiors thought he was doing a good job. But what good was getting a few human scumbags of the streets when hundreds more died each year because there was no one there to save them? Yet that’s all he’d ever wanted to do. Saving lives, taking out the scum that threatened innocent people. Part of him had wanted to just get in his car, grab the salt and start going after monsters. He’d just been too sensible to actually do it. He had alimony to pay to his ex-wives, rent for his apartment. He needed his job.
So he took the file, and the case, and he flew coach, with screaming kids in the seat right behind him and a snoring, overweight woman next to him. She’d asked if she could lift the arm support between their seats as soon as the plane had taken off, so now he occasionally had to push her to the other side as he risked having her head leaning up against him.
He opened the file and stared at it. Five bodies found, more missing. The boss would have sent in the BAU if they weren’t already busy at the other side of the country. Most of the victims in his case were old, homeless and probably unwanted even before they died. It wasn’t anyone’s fault,there was a budget to be kept in mind, but choices had to be made.
In this case, that was probably for the better. At least now, Victor wouldn’t have to worry about keeping any well-intentioned colleagues off his back while he tried to find who, or better yet, what, was hunting people in this town.
The woman next to him woke up, just as he was making some notes about marks on the victims’ arms and legs. She stared at the pictures and scooted away the few inches that the airplane seat would let her. Victor ignored her, took the headset and listened to some music while he tried to work.
When the plane finally landed, the first thing he did after getting his rental, was to head to the police station. He wasn’t even surprised when he got there and they asked him where his partner was. He was about to tell them that he didn’t have a partner when she stepped in, he recognized her attitude before he even heard her voice.
"Agent Owens." He said, barely keeping out a hiss. He understood that it was all for a good cause, but Hunters’ tendencies to use fake badges and fake credentials went in against his every instinct. He wondered what Reidy would say, the real Reidy, if he ever found out how much Victor was allowing to slip through the cracks. He’d probably be mocking him from beyond the grave.
"Agent Henriksen." She turned to him. "I hope you don’t mind, but I went right to the case." He nodded and waited for the sheriff to start talking, while praying to whatever would listen that no one would check up on her. If they did, it was his butt that was on the line. She was beautiful. Her black hair had been cut in a short, practical style. He wondered if it was naturally straight. It wasn’t just her looks that made him notice her. She had a presence, a hint about her of danger. She looked like she knew what she was doing.
He barely even managed to focus on the explanation of everything he’d already noticed in the files himself; the tearing on the throat, the older bite marks on limbs and chest.
Owen muttered something that sounded suspiciously like ‘vampires’. He really hoped he was hearing her wrong. All he knew about vampires was what he’d seen in movies, and he’d never been the type to wear a cross.
He asked for the files of any missing person in the area from the last few years and the police captain looked at him as if he was insane. Victor just glared back and got the files not half an hour later while him and Owens sat on a bench drinking dishwater masquerading as coffee and trying not to face one another. She seemed uncomfortable just being near him. He wondered if it was because he was a real Fed, and not someone pretending to be one, like she was.
"Just give me the files, Henriksen." She said, as soon as they left the station. "I appreciate the help." Yeah sure she did, he could hear that in the way she had to force the words out of her lips. "But you’re an amateur, and I don’t have time to watch out for some newbie weekend hunter who thinks he’s got a clue."
He stood there, wondering if this was what his last probie had felt like when Victor had sent him out for coffee when he’d been discussing a case with Reidy.
The boy had been all high-strung, thinking he was a hot shot now that he was out of the academy, and Victor had been forced to set him straight and quick.
"No chance. I’m not going to let you fuck up this case. Not when I’m the one who vouched for you in there." If he were acting any more childish he’d be holding the file over his head to see if she’d jump for it.
She glared at him, grabbed the files out of his hand, turned on her heels and left. He didn’t bother to go after her. He’d already made sure to get doubles. He didn’t need her, didn’t want to need her, or get to know her. She was a Hunter and if she was anything like the Winchesters, then the less he had to do with her the better.
So he headed to his room and got his set of files, setting up a map, pictures, anything he had to figure out what was going on. Then he stood there and tried to see the pattern. Tamara Owens could think whatever the hell she wanted of him. But he was good at this. He’d tracked the fucking Winchesters for years, and he’d caught up with them more than once. If he could track them down, then he could track whatever the hell was wrong in this two-bit town. He was sure of it.
At first it all seemed random, all the victims were old, broken and they’d been left all over town. So he started looking at where they’d been before, who they were. Profiling the victims was never easy, not when you looked at the lives of people who’d once been someone, until they lost all they had, until there was nothing left of them but people looking for something to eat and a shelter over their heads.
And then he got it.
He tried to call Owens, she didn’t pick up her phone. He hoped it was because she was ignoring him, rather than because she was in trouble. Well maybe he could handle her being in a little bit of trouble, just as long as she stayed the hell away from the cops. He didn’t need to get linked to her if she got caught pretending. It was one reason he’d ignored Dean’s nagging for a real FBI badge, those guys got caught way too often, there was no chance he’d let himself get tripped up because those two idiots were too prissy to wear gloves
Victor grabbed the keys for his rental and didn’t hesitate to head towards the homeless shelter, an old building at the bad side of town, only a few blocks removed from what used to be the good side of town. Not that there was much of a difference, the town itself was dying, slowly, eating upon itself, while people clung to the illusion that someday the old mill would come back and some new group would take over the old factory, luring young people back, instead of chasing them away as soon as they were old enough to leave for new options. Compared to the rest of the area, the shelter almost looked new. There was new paint on the walls, new glass on the windows, with curtains stopping the glare of the sun.
At a set of tables outside, a few of the clients were smoking cigarettes while drinking their cups of soup, wearing fingerless gloves. Victor pulled his coat tighter and stomped in without warning. Everything looked normal - too normal, for a place that had lost five of its regulars in the past two months. He looked around. Everything was clean, proper. Men and women sat around tables, drinking soup, while volunteers walked around handing out steaming hot bowls and baskets with buttered bread.
The big guy filling the bowls standing behind the counter looked like he’d feel more at home at a biker bar than as a volunteer helping people. A teenager jumped up from the ground where he’d been looking at the heaters, running straight up to the pale brunette who was talking to some of the people sitting at the tables.
She seemed out of place, more so than the biker. The guy, Victor could see him on community service, or who knows, trying to make up for fucking up his own life. But her, she looked like she should be sitting in a college somewhere, playing at being a Goth and looking down on guys trying to get her attention. She seemed far too delicate for a place like this, which only made him wonder what she was doing there. She was small in a way that Tamara Owens had looked solid, her eyes dark and lined as if she was up way past her bedtime. She looked at him, their glances met and for a moment Victor hesitated.
She seemed scared. He could feel it coursing through the room, throughout all the normality; she wasn’t the only person in the room who was afraid. He could imagine what everyone else was scared of, but her? He presumed she could only be afraid of him. He walked around, heading towards her, looking at the regulars surrounding him. They seemed a bit pale, but healthy, hungry too. No children, a few teenagers, but they sat separate, away from the adults. They were dressed in clothes seasons out of date, but clean and cared for, as if someone had been looking after them.
The closer Victor got to the strange woman, the more she stared at him, until he finally stopped in front of her, pulling out his badge. "Agent Victor Henriksen. I was hoping to ask some questions."
She nodded and waved at him to follow her to the back. He wondered if he was walking right into a trap. "My name’s Lenore. Anything I can do to help."
Several of the volunteers were staring at them as they moved, but none of them followed. Was it because they saw the homeless people as hostages, or because they were just protective of their boss and wondered what some stranger wanted with her?
Suddenly, she hesitated and looked back at him, sniffing as if there was some kind of a smell attached to him. "When was the last time you met the Winchesters, Agent?" was all she asked as soon as they were alone.
"What’s that supposed to mean?" Trying not to think of the drink he’d had with Dean only two weeks ago. He’d been thinking the guy was crazy, coming up to him like that while there were at least four other agents in the bar. But Winchester had been his cocky self, acting like nothing was out of the ordinary and not a single one of them had even noticed that the bastard didn’t belong. They’d ended up getting drunk together while Dean explained about angels and why you should never trust one.
"You smell like them. Not much, but some hints of their scents, especially Dean’s, is on you."
He was almost inclined to start smelling his own arms, wondering if this was what would make her attack him.
"Smells linger. Especially those of Hunters."
"So, now what? Are you planning to kill me, like you killed those poor people we found." He’d always been inclined to go on the offensive when he knew he was in trouble.
He was just about ready to grab for the stake he’d taken with him, when he looked at her. She’d moved away from him, rather than closer. In fact it almost seemed as if she was trying to put him at ease, taking a step away, out of his space.
"We don’t kill people, Agent." And the way she put an emphasis on the word agent he almost felt offended. He’d earned that badge and not by paying for it at a copy shop. "None of my nest do. Ask the Winchesters, if you want to. They helped us out before." It was weird, hearing her call on the Winchesters as character witnesses. It made him bite back a chuckle at how nonsensical that would have sounded only a year ago, now, it was almost enough to make him believe her.
"And I’m supposed to believe that, because they’re such a reliable source?"
Victor loomed over her, but despite her frail appearance, she didn’t move an inch.
"We don’t need to kill Agent. We have a deal with the people in the shelter. They allow us to feed on their blood; in return, we protect them, feed them, and clothe them. We help the children get back on their feet, back into schools."
"What, you’re farming them?" He didn’t even know where the comparison came from.
"Someone is killing off our food supply, Agent. We have no reason to kill these people, no need to harm them. Mistreating them would only send them running, would only bring Hunters here and kill us." He didn’t know why, didn’t even understand why he would want to believe her, but somehow, something about her, the way she talked, convinced him she was telling the truth.
He remembered hearing all the facts on the Winchesters, on Dean, and how he’d forced himself to go in against his instincts over and over. Because the truth had been so unbelievable, nothing matched up, until he finally gave in and realized the truth.
He picked up his phone and tried Dean’s first cell again. This time he got an answer on his second ring.
"Who the fuck’s Lenore?"
"Well Gee, Victor, no time for even a hello, how are you doing?"
"Hello, how are you doing." Victor said curt and short, making it clear he didn’t want an answer before continuing. "Who’s Lenore, Dean?"
"Vampire, she and her nest are trying to exist without killing people. We met them a year or so back. They were feeding on cows, last time we met them."
"Can vampires feed without killing their victims?"
Dean seemed to hesitate at that. After a moment he answered. "Yes, they do it a lot, keep their victims around for weeks, months even before they’re drained. If they’re well fed, it wouldn’t do more damage than a regular visit to one of those blood drives." He sounded as if he was remembering something. Victor could hear the worry in his tone.
Victor stared at the vampire in front of him. She didn’t even pretend that she wasn’t listening in on his call. He hung up the phone and looked her over.
"'Very' humanitarian." Was all he said. She didn’t even seem offended.
"We tried to feed on cows, but it called too much attention to us. Hunters kept noticing the cattle mutilations." Victor was sure they would, just as he was sure that human blood probably tasted a lot better than good old Bessie.
"So you switched back to humans."
"We don’t kill people. It’s against our own best interests. We feed on volunteers. They supply us with what we need and we return the favor. Everyone’s better off." In a way he believed her, there was no way that the local town could keep a homeless shelter like this as well supplied as it was. Not when even the police station looked as if was on the verge of being abandoned.
"I’m sure they are." He stared back at the door, thinking about the people behind it, wondering if they even had a choice.
It was only now that she seemed to get offended, as if he was wrong for daring to judge her and her nest. "We’ve been trying to find out who’s been killing people, but there’s only so much we can do during day time." She seemed almost angry, having to defend herself like this.
"Doesn’t seem to bother you too much." But oh it did, it did so much.
"Sunlight makes us sluggish, easily tired." She went up to her desk and got a bunch of pictures out of it. "These people were regular donors, when they went missing, we instantly went looking for them. Someone’s been masking their scents. Please, Agent, we want to find them as much, if not more than you do."
He wondered how much he’d changed. Would he have disbelieved her a year ago, would he have thought of her as a threat then? He wasn’t sure.
"There’s a Hunter in town." The words came out before he’d even thought about it. "I’ll try and talk to her." Lenore seemed almost confused, as if he’d somehow messed up her idea of him. "But if I find you’re lying. I’ll take you and every last member of your group out myself."
"How? With that stake of yours?" There was a mocking tone in her voice that almost made him want to grab for the stake right there and then.
"So?" He scoffed, somewhat more defensive than he’d intended.
"Stakes can’t kill one of us, Agent."
"They can’t?" He asked, while taking a step back. He wouldn’t show his fear, even if she could probably smell it on him. "And I’m guessing you’re not going to tell me what can?"
She looked at him, hesitated. "Decapitation. Take our heads off, and we’re dead. Dead men’s blood paralyzes us."
He stared at her then, why was she telling him this?
"If you meet the one who’s doing this. I want you to know who helped you. We are on your side, agent. We’re not the enemy."
She was a vampire, a predator, a thing that fed on human blood. She sat there in an office that held picture frames of the people her home had helped. On a chair behind a desk filled with folders holding the names and information of people nobody else cared enough to help.
Victor would never know for sure if walking out was the right thing to do. But right now, it was the only option he had. He would find his killer. He was sure of it.
He found Tamara Owens and kept her from killing every last vampire in town. Somehow, it made him feel more like himself. Good guys, bad guys, and the people in between. In a way it felt like coming home.
She didn’t believe him of course; cussed him out for even thinking of buying into the vampires crap. He told her the vampire had the Winchester’s seal of approval, which only seemed to make things worse. He wasn’t even sure what it was that Tamara had against them - something about her husband’s death. He didn’t dare ask her for more information. But he remembered Reidy. He remembered Reidy coming back to him as a ghost, the way the man had looked at him, had accused him of betraying everything he believed in by working with Dean and Sam. Telling him how he’d failed him - had let him die.
He’d stood there, with Reidy’s ghostly fingers around his throat, ready to let go of life, when the spirit disappeared in front of him and he sank down against the wall.
They called it the rising of the witnesses. Dean said there was this big story surrounding it. Victor hadn’t wanted to know, Dean had come to tell him anyway. Victor had sat there in the hotel room, another place far away from the apartment that was supposed to be his home, even if he spent barely a few days a month in the place. He’d put on the heater, but even that hadn’t stopped the cold as he stared at his hands, imagining his friend’s blood still on them.
It was easy to blame people, when all they wanted to do was help, easy to blame the obvious party. But he was a federal agent; he’d been trained to see things in grey. To look beyond the easy answer, and to look at a woman who was just trying to keep her people safe and realize, she wasn’t the bad guy. Not this time.
It took them a week to find the real culprit. The murderer wasn’t even a vampire.
Tamara glared at him when they staked the Aztec god with a wooden tent pole covered in its victims blood. Lenore, she stood there, when he brought her the last possessions of the missing people, gave her the names.
"I’m sorry." He’d said. The other vampires looked away, they seemed unsure about him, probably wondering if they should run or not. He wasn’t sure if he was the one they were scared of, or the Hunter standing in the door, looking at the people in the room. Tamara was the first to leave, storming out of the door, with little more than a promise that she’d be back if she found any more deaths. He met with her later, shared a beer, without much talking. She asked him what the hell was wrong in the world that she was actually letting a bunch of vampires get away like this. Asking him what had happened to her? If her husband knew, he would never understand. He hadn’t asked her for her story, she didn’t tell him. She just sat there and when she left he promised he’d keep an eye on the town, that he’d let her know if anything had changed. And to make sure there weren’t any deaths kept covered up.
Victor didn’t watch her go. He’d already gotten his stuff from his room, pulled down his maps and his pictures before facing her. He’d left the room as empty as it had been when he first entered it. Like he’d done with a hundred, a thousand before it. Moving on to the next case.
He looked back one last time before he got into his car, looking back through the window and getting on the highway to the nearest airport. He couldn’t avoid driving past the homeless center and saw her standing outside..
Lenore had her arms folded in front of her, she’d waited for him to leave before she sank down and cried. He didn’t want to look back, but he had to. Black white and grey, the colors of his life.